Not one to let the NSA have all the fun, the CIA is also collecting records in bulk. According to The New York Times, the Central Intelligence Agency is collecting bulk records on international money transfers, citing the same part of the Patriot Act—Section 215—that allowed for the NSA's phone records collection initiative, and the program is similarly monitored by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
While the Times was able to get multiple official to confirm the existence of the program, none of them went fully on the record about it, citing its classified nature (and maybe also because the last person to go on the record about bulk data collection by the government ended up living in the Moscow airport for a month).
Another [official], while not acknowledging the program, suggested that the surveillance court had imposed rules withholding the identities of any Americans from the data the C.I.A. sees, requiring a tie to a terrorist organization before a search may be run, and mandating that the data be discarded after a certain number of years. The court has imposed several similar rules on the N.S.A. call logs program.
Regulations analogous to those described above were proposed by the Senate Intelligence Committee a couple of weeks ago. A spokesperson for the CIA would not comment on the existence of the program, but gave a boilerplate answer, telling reporters "that the agency conducts lawful intelligence collection aimed at foreign — not domestic — activities and that it is subject to extensive oversight." This is obfuscating the issue though, since concerns surrounding the government's collection of bulk records were never about legality, but about privacy.
Companies cited as complying with government requests, such as Western Union and MoneyGram, also remained mostly mum on the issue, stating that the are legally obligated to comply. Such requests are also normally accompanied by a gag order.
And the hits just keep on coming. One official told the Times that at least one other government records collection program has yet to come to light. That claim is bolstered by a statement General Keith Alexander gave to Congress last month, when he clarified at one point that he was only testifying about the NSA's activity under the Patriot Act, implying that other agencies were operating their own programs.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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